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The big news in the popular financial press was the Dow breaking 15,000. But readers here know that the far broader S&P 500 is my preferred gauge of the US market. The 500 hit its fourth consecutive all-time high and the fifth all-time high in six sessions. Yesterday's 0.52% closing gain, a mere 7 basis points off its intraday high, was a close runner-up to the eurozone, where the EURO STOXX 50 rose 0.67%, but neither came anywhere near the stunning 3.55% gain in the Nikkei 225 after a four-day weekend. Reuters attributes the US gains to optimism over German data (factory orders surprised to the upside). But that seems far too specific. A prolonged bout of global QE euphoria strikes me as a more plausible explanation.

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Volume was still on the light side, 6% below its 50-day moving average, but that's up from 12% below Monday.

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The SPY ETF, a better gauge of individual trader mentality, isn't confirming the highs with surges in volume. Far from it, as the daily chart illustrates. The ETF volume was 29% below the 50-day MA today, although that showed near hysteria compared to Monday's -46%.

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The S&P 500 is now up 14.01% for 2013.

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For a better sense of how these declines figure into a larger historical context, here's a long-term view of secular bull and bear markets in the S&P Composite since 1871.

Source: S&P 500 Snapshot: Fourth Consecutive All-Time High